The Bird Garden is located at 3203 route 114 in Edgett's Landing, New Brunswick. We manufacture unique bird feeders, houses, iron hangers and among other things make the best peanut butter suet ever.
We also have a stall at the Moncton Market, Westmorland Street, (but we're closest to the Robinson Street entrance), Moncton, New Brunswick, Saturdays from 7 am - 2 pm.

*****Since we can no longer compete with online discount sites like Amazon, we are no longer carrying commercial feeders. For now, we will be concentrating on our unique feeders and accessories, bear with us while we update our website. *****
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Hawk Watching

It’s March, finally, this is the month things will really start to happen.  For those of you who are new to my column and those who forgot when I mentioned it last year, we gain about 1 hour and 45 minutes of daylight this month, that will trigger all kinds of behavior in the bird world.  When I mentioned this to my mother, she replied that daylight savings time starts a couple weeks early and that’ll help the birds out.  If you can figure that one out, drop me a line, maybe they have more time to fix up around the nest after work?  
  I’m like a lot of people I’ve spoken to, I sort of neglected some of my feeder stations a while ago when I couldn’t easily get to them without snowshoes, moving some to the cloths line where I can fill them more easily.  There were quite a few of you who also chose to buy new feeders rather than a pair of snowshoes to retrieve the old ones.  The next time I see a $10 pair of snowshoes in a yard sale I’ll be picking them up, you can’t find them that cheap when you need them, and if you want to get anywhere off a beaten path you do need them.  We only have 2 acres, but if I were dropped in the middle, I don’t know if I’d survive. (The bird house picture that was printed 2 weeks ago in now completely buried.)  
I want to start getting ready, the blackbirds will be back in a couple weeks, a welcome sign of spring, I enjoy them for a while but don’t miss them too bad when they disperse to breeding grounds.  They do a nice job cleaning up under the feeders, although this year they’ll need to do some major excavation to get at the fallen seed.  I’ll put lots of cracked corn on the ground when they return, if the snow hasn’t crusted over by then I’ll feed it on the driveway and beat an area down in the snow.  I do love watching a big flock of male Red-winged Blackbirds take flight and flash that beautiful red patch.  
Last year there were Eastern Bluebirds back in New Brunswick in March and actually building nests by the first week in April.  Tree Swallows will follow soon after and our wintering chickadees are starting to think about spring, singing more and inspecting the odd nest box.  
  Although they won’t be arriving in our province for another 2 months, the Ruby-throated Hummingbird has started it’s journey north.  A few have already crossed the Gulf of Mexico, soon I’ll be getting emails from snowbird friends, bragging about a hummer at their Florida feeder.  What do I respond with?  I have a picture of the great view taken from my roof while shoveling off the snow and a picture of me up to my waist in snow...on the roof, I’ll send them that and mention all the roofs that collapsed. They should have something to worry about other than what level of sunscreen they should apply. 
For now I’ll have to be content looking at my one lone male robin coming to apples and sumac berries, I might even be able to trick myself into thinking it’s a sign of an early spring, except he’s been in the yard since December and we’ve had quite a bit of winter since then.  No, robins won’t be a sign of spring until they arrive by the hundreds, accompanied by flickers in the ditches and any bare ground they can find, those are the robins that signal spring, and they’ll arrive a week or two after the black birds.
That’s also the time I like to be in Albert County for the hawk and sea duck migration, there are a few good areas to watch, but the best has to be in New Horton on route 915, the little Baptist Church is a well known hot spot for area birders.  You have great views of hawks as they approach, if the conditions are right the birds will glide and ride thermals giving experts and beginners plenty of time to study these specks in the sky and decide what species it is.  On the best days a few hundred hawks and a few thousand ducks will pass by on their way up the bay.  Scanning the individuals and flocks trying to pick out something different or even rare is a great way to spend a sunny early spring day, that’s the best part, if it’s raining or there’s a cold north wind, you might as well stay home by the fire and watch birds out our window, there’s not likely going to be too many hawks on the move.  
After a period of bad weather, the first warm sunny day with a south wind is bound to be productive.  What better place to be than New Horton or Cape Enrage watching what flies past?
Photographers are likely to be disappointed, most of the hawks are just specks, even with binoculars and spotting scopes there are only certain field marks you’ll be able to pick up.  Colours aren’t as important as patterns, size not as important as shape.  Size of wings, head and tail in relation to other body parts come into play, the way they flap their wings, the way they hold their wings when they soar.  
A little study leading up to the day will pay off, most field guides are of little use on a hawk watch, my trusty Peterson guide with it’s pictures of perched hawks doesn’t cut it, Sibley’s is better but if you really want to identify flying hawks from a distance you’ll want to read books specializing in that field.  My all time favourite (non-field guide) bird book is Hawks in Flight, by Pete Dunne, David Sibley (yes the same Sibley) and Clay Sutton, the cream of the crop, who have all written several recommended books.  Pete and David are writers for Birders World magazine, (who by the way just changed the name this month to BirdWatching Magazine so if you’re looking for it on the news stand it’ll have a slightly different look.)  Clay Sutton wrote several books, including How to Spot Hawks and Eagles. 
I’m anxiously awaiting my copy of Hawks at a Distance, by Jerry Liguori, praised by both Dunne and Sibley it promises to improve my identification skills.  
Don’t get too intimidated when you pick up one of these guides, I narrow the list to what I’m going to see in New Brunswick, I don’t waste precious brain cells memorizing all the traits of a Swallow-tailed Kite for instance.  Then just before the day, I’ll brush up on what is likely to be passing through that time of year.  I can follow other birders reports or go back to online archives to see trends.  
I’ll take my books, labeled with post-it note book marks for easy reference, but I usually only look at them after the bird moves on, taking all the time to absorb as much information as I can. 
If you’re really into hawks, and really enjoy challenging yourself and your identification skills, then a hawk watch day may be for you.  If you aren’t so sure you could get excited about standing on a hill studying specks in the sky then it’d be a good idea to drive separately, you’ll be miserable and you’ll drag the rest of the group down with you.  Remember, you’ll want warm cloths, sun screen, lip balm, sunglasses, water and lunch.  This isn’t watching gulls by Captan Dan’s in Shediac in the summer, this is Albert County in March and April, it’s cold and nothing is open, so take everything you’ll need with you. 
If you’re lucky, there’ll be a couple veteran hawk watchers on the sight, you’ll get to hear the lingo, and someone will be able to tell you if you’re on track or totally off base with your identifications.  It’ll take some practice to even be able to find the speck in question, you’ll be looking into a clear sky with no reference points.  It’s not like finding the crow someone points out in the birch tree at 3 o’clock. (the position, not the time).  It’ll be more like, “11 o’clock, 2 fields (field of view of a typical binocular) above the horizon, it might be an eagle...or a small aircraft.”  So you find it and watch until it gets closer and more clues start to show up.  
For me the best thing that came out of studying hawks for a migration watch was being able to identify the ones I see flying over my yard, without the aid of optics.  It’s a lot easier to do the yard work without running for my binoculars every time a hawk passes, my yard is just north of the good hawk watch sights, although they disperse somewhat, quite a few still fly over, keeping me on my toes and giving me lots to look at. 
{If you know what the photo is, drop me a line.}

Q&A Bird ID and Optics

Questions and answers:
I’ve had several questions recently about this bird (some had accompanying pictures), they all went a little like:
Q: I have a black and white bird coming to my feeders, my friend says it’s a Snow Bunting but it doesn’t look quite like the one in my book.  Is it a Snow Bunting or something else?
A:  In the cases, where the bird (or picture) almost fit the image of the Snow Bunting in the field guide, it was indeed what we were looking at.  Snow Buntings only have one molt per year, the summer plumage is brownish and instead of molting into a breeding plumage, the tips of the feathers wear off leaving the males black and white by the time breeding begins.  Males will even rub on snow to speed up the wear. A hardy little bird though, when he returns to the high Arctic breeding grounds with these worn down feathers, the temperature could still be -30 degrees.
So if the bird or picture you’re looking at isn’t in the same stage of wear as the picture in your field guide, it wouldn’t look exactly the same.  Some guides show more plumages than others, even then there will always sightings of birds with plumage in between.  If you search on line you’ll usually come up with a picture that matches and chances are if it’s dated it will coincide loosely with the time of year your bird was spotted.  
Snow Bunting tend to like open fields, I’ve only had them in my yard twice in 19 years, but when I lived in PEI, there were thousands in grain fields and roadside for grit.  Many took advantage of my fathers ground feed, I took them for granted but now I’d be very excited to have even a pair in my yard.  
Q:  I have a small pair of binoculars, 12x25’s, I’d like to be able to get better looks at the birds I see.  Should my next step be a spotting scope or should I get a camera with a telephoto lens?
A:  It depends on your budget and what you want to achieve.  If you want to learn more about birds, how to identify them and their behavior, I’d go for the scope.  If you want to get high quality pictures, then you’ll need a high end camera.  If you just want a photo for the record and aren’t planning on blowing it up or having a calendar printed you might be happy with a point and shoot digital and a spotting scope to play around with digiscoping.  
Before I made any hasty decisions that are bound to be expensive, I’d try out a good pair of 8x42 binoculars.  Whether you choose a camera or a scope your birding skill will increase greatly if you can more easily locate and observe birds doing what they do.  Then if you want to get a really close look or take a picture that’s great, but sometimes you don’t have a lot of time to observe the bird and note the various field marks, if you spend it trying to take a picture, you may have missed out.  Trying to identify birds from one or two pictures can range from frustrating to impossible, noting as much as you can while the bird is moving around in front of you is more important than the picture, if you’re trying to learn. 
I have some friends who subscribe to the “shoot first and ask questions later” philosophy, but they aren’t progressing in their identification skills as fast as others who are content to sit and observe.  For every picture they show me that can identified, there are a dozen blurred shots that even they don’t know the species.  The really good bird photographers I know, were good birders first.  
Some specialty stores will have demo binoculars that you’d be allowed to take out into the field and give them a really good test, take you own pair along to compare.  Don’t go on the brightest part of the day, good binoculars really shine in low light conditions.  Compare the field of view, brightness, clarity, even close focusing with your 12x25 pair, for birding I’d guarantee an 8x42 (or 8x40) will make you much happier and give you the views you’re looking for.  
I have a friend with a steady hand who can take a picture with her digital camera held up to one barrel on her binoculars.  The pictures aren’t going to make the cover of Birdwatchers Digest (Mechanics Illustrated maybe) but she has an identifiable picture and a record for her yard list.  

Thinking About Spring in the Middle of Winter

I think it’s safe to say that the farthest thing from your mind right now is mosquitoes, but as I was on the roof shoveling off some of the 4 foot accumulation of snow, I was thinking about what I could write about this week, and mosquitoes came to mind.  Actually it was nest boxes, I was also looking at a rather large amount of snow on some of my bird houses, a couple poles had bad leans and the box that was on my collapsed arbour may or may not be salvageable, I’ll find out when the snow melts.  
I thought if these poles break off I’ll have to get them replaced early, before the swallows return or my summer will be even more mosquito infested than normal.  Later that night I was reading around the web and discovered that it’s National Nest Box Week, at least in Britain, they say it starts on Valentine’s Day and is the traditional time when birds pair up for the new breeding season (?).  I kind of missed the boat on this one, but here in New Brunswick, I think we still have time, later spring and all.  The idea is a great one though, a reminder to get out and clean out old nests, repair damage and possibly build a few new boxes.  
I find a few boxes each spring that had been commandeered by a larger bird like a Hairy Woodpecker, they usually enlarge the hole and spend the long winter nights inside.  Swallow boxes would be too small for them to nest in, so after things warm up and the woodpeckers are thinking about nests, I’ll replace the hole.  I do this by drilling the appropriate sized hole in a small piece of board and nailing it on over the enlarged hole.  This will also act as a predator guard by making the entrance thicker, therefore harder for a cat, raccoon, or even another bird to reach in and down to steal eggs or nestlings.  If you don’t have any scrap, don’t worry, I have lot’s and keep these “holes” on hand at no charge.  If you have a persistent squirrel chewing out the holes, you can use a metal washer or drill a hole in a piece of sheet aluminum and nail it over the hole.   
If you’re planning a few new additions and haven’t already placed your poles, it would be a good idea to get ready for when the snow melts as I’m sure this year there won’t be a whole lot of time between the thaw and the nesting.  
In some cases it’s possible to put nest boxes in water, this is a great idea for Tree Swallows, it puts the box right in the best habitat and the water around the pole is a great barrier to some predators, like cats and squirrels.  Now is a great time to drive long poles into the pond bottoms, after testing the ice, chop a hole in a likely spot and drive the post through the ice, you may need a step ladder to get high enough to drive the pole, but imagine how much easier it is to stand on a step ladder on solid ice than it would be in a canoe this spring.  
Another thing I need to do to get ready for mosquito season is add another bat house, last year I had one in a bat house and one behind an old, now tattered banner that needs to be replaced.  The little guy behind the banner was very popular last summer, he had his photo taken many times.  As the sun came around to that side of the shop he’d inch his way down to the bottom where I guess the air was a little fresher, he was about 2 feet over my head.  I’m pleased to say that most people were very intrigued and I can’t recall anyone who was scared of him.  Ten years ago it would have been a different story, I would never have pointed him out as to many people would have left screaming.  Next year Little Fuzzy will hopefully get used to a nice new bat house, I’d hate to loose either of the two I have left, I keep hoping one finds a girl friend, a breeding colony would be even better. 
I also plan on building a fake chimney in hopes of attracting some roosting or nesting Chimney Swifts.  I found plans online for what is basically a 10 foot long box, open at both ends, I have just the place on the back side of my shop, and while I’m up there I’ll put a few shelves to give the Cliff and Barn Swallows a head start on making their nests.  
The more bug eating birds, (and bats, and dragonflies) the merrier, if you have any you don’t want, send them my way.  If you want to attract some to your property, nest box building is a great week end project.  You don’t have to be a finish carpenter, the rougher the better for the birds, often you can even reclaim old wood, again rough sawn is preferred over more expensive dressed lumber.  
Target the species you want to attract and build the nest box to the appropriate dimensions, I have step by step directions and plans for most of our cavity dwellers on line at  We might as well get to work now, in a few weeks we’ll be dealing with run off and flooded basements, then we’ll be fixing everything that collapsed under the weight of the snow, before you know it we’ll be swatting mosquitoes and it’ll be too late for another year.